Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Mrs. Wallen 4

“...A merchant in Dominica and friend of my father’s arrived in London and stopped at my brother’s house (Captain Garraway who traded in Dominica). He got Mrs. Garraway to call on me and invite me there for a few days. They lived at Mile End. He planned a day’s sight-seeing for my benefit, and invited a Portuguese lady, a friend of Mrs. G.’s and we started directly after breakfast. He engaged a coach for the day. We went to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the Automatons, Miss Linwood’s exhibition of pictures done in needlework [in Leicester Square]—then we had lunch—and after that we went to the Tower. Had to go there in a boat. We saw the crown jewels, the Armory room, the instruments of torture taken from the Inquisition—figures of Queen Elizabeth, her Page, her horse and her pillion, all with the very dresses they wore—stops and other things, very small, carved by the prisoners from the bones they had with their meals, even the ropes and sail so beautifully done. They are kept in a glass case, there is no charge for seeing these things but you are told that everyone is supposed to give what they like to the caretakers in each room. We went to see a panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar, and then we had tea and went to the theatre and I think it was to see Paul Pry acting [sic, Paul Pry was the title of an opera by John Poole. The first production took place in Haymarket in 1825, and Madame Vestris sang in it—this is presumably the performance Mrs. Wallen recalled here twice]. Next day Mrs. G. got a hackney coach and took me to school. Miss Fellowes took the biggest girls every 6 months to the theatre. Once it was to Covent Garden to see Miss [Maria] Foote as Lady Teazle in “The School for Scandal.” All the principal actors were good but I forget their names. Once we went to see [Charles] Mathews At Home, the old Mathews [at the Adelphi]. He had just returned from America and the performance was something quite new as he personated a number of different characters and so well. We went several times to Sadler’s Wells, saw the Pantomime, and went to [Philip] Astley’s [Royal Amphitheatre of Equestrian Arts, i.e. the circus]. Went with Miss Fellowes to a concert and heard Miss [Mary Anne] Paton (Lady [William] Lennox) sing, also [William] Broadhurst and [Henry] Phillips [bass] and Miss [Katherine] Stephen[s], all good singers. When I was 15 my mother wrote to say she wished Miss Twigg to take my likeness as she had done my cousin Mary Ann and my aunt’s pictures so well, so I went to stay there for part of my holidays while she did my miniature. Soon after it was done I had a visit from my brother Charles. He said a lady from Trinidad was going back there with her two daughters and wd. take me under her care and my mother was to make all arrangements. Before doing so my aunt John arrived from St. Vincent to take my cousin from school. She and my brother thought I had better go with them, so my aunt ordered all my fit-out and I left school and London in the James Cruikshank (Capt. Young). She was a small vessel, only two other lady passengers. We had fine weather all the way and a quick passage. My father and mother had gone to Trinidad to meet me, and were staying at my sister’s house. As soon as my father heard of my arrival he chartered a sloop at once and went to St. Vincent to meet me and take me to Trinidad. He brought a respectable woman accustomed to the sea to attend me—so in a few days I was again on the water, and oh! so sick. We arrived in the evening and being a small vessel entered between 2 very high rocks, and when through it was a lovely moonlight night and the Bay is beautiful, but we did not get up to Port of Spain until next day. There was great rejoicing. Gratton was 6 months old and my sister would not have him christened until I arrived that night to be his godfather [sic]. We had visitors all day and some nice young men in the evenings—the Agonistes (brothers, Corsicans), Goanatti (Italians), O’Connor (an officer), and Wallen, his visits were every evening. The Judge (Johnston) gave a dinner party, a very select one, for me. Bushe and his wife and my father and mother and self went to it. Tony was not invited. The Judge did not approve of his style. He was very handsome and went about with only shirt, white trousers, no waistcoat, turned-down collar. The French and Spanish girls liked his society…[missing pages]…Island of St. Vincent. My father’s sister and she were married the same day. My mother’s own sister married a Mr. Geoffrey. They lived in England. He was drowned in a mail packet coming out to the W. Indies. My mother had other sisters. One answered to Mrs. Bordeaux and lived in France, one to a Mrs. Hopley, a Frenchman who went by the name of “L’Empereur” as he dressed well and did nothing. His children might have starved but for his wife’s industry and cleverness. She had nine children. Her daughter (2nd) Matilda was very handsome, her 1st Catherine, her eldest son married a colored girl and my aunt considered it such a disgrace she could not bear to remain on the island and took the whole family to Canada—having so many sons, thought they wd. do well there—Their sufferings in the winter were great, and she was obliged to return to St. Vincent after losing everything, but commenced a little business with Martinique by which she made a living and was patronized by everyone, especially the Governor, Sir Charles Brisbane, who always got his champagne by the dozen. Both her daughters married gentlemen of moderate means and went to live in England….[missing pages]…to see Netley Abbey, such a beautiful old ruin, the walls all covered with ivy and such a beautiful old ruin and immense beautiful trees and the names of people cut on them with the dates so long ago. We took our lunch and spent the whole day there. As there was only a small church Miss Fellowes went out with her mother but didn’t take us. Her brother was an officer in the customs at the London docks, had come to stay for a few days and did not go to church. Miss Cadell and myself were reading in the little drawing room. There was before the fire-place cut out in a pattern hung before it made of tissue paper. It was white. Mr. Fellowes came into the room with a little book and read for a little while. Then he took a cushion off the sofa and threw it at me, so I picked it up and threw it back. Instead of striking him, however, it went against the fireplace and tore it. I was in such a fright, however directly Miss Fellowes arrived from church. I told her I did it. She said the landlady’s daughter had cut it out, and the mother wd. be very angry. I said I was sorry it happened and wd. pay for it, and I did, about twice its value. Miss F. let me, about twice its value, 10/- I paid. Another summer Miss F. took a house at Hereford, close to the river. Miss Cadell and I took long walks, one to one to Wordsworth we liked best, such a pretty country village and old church, and epitaphs on the old tombstones, very funny, always in rhyme, some written by the blacksmith. It was very neglected, grass and weeds all over the walks.

And that is all that three-times great grandmother Catherine Wallen has left us, from the middle years of the reign of King George IV. We shall assume that with, I suppose, admirable duty, but perhaps not a little regret, she foreswore the attractions of Tony,” with only shirt, white trousers, no waistcoat, turned-down collar, and, resolving not to follow the slightly questionable but deeply interesting paths followed by certain of her Audibert relations, went ahead and married “Wallen,” the candidate apparently preferred by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gibbons Hobson. Old Mrs. Hobson is a shadow, a mystery: was the striking distance between mother and daughter nothing more complicated than the obstacle of Mrs. Hobson’s very imperfect English? And then there are those twin phenomena in the education of Regency women: (1) inertia: two whole hours spent daily perambulating in Cadogan Square, and such lessons as they got flowed at the dizzying rate of once or twice a week; and (2) that constant, overriding concern about money. Fortunately, thanks to her father and his colleague Mr. Constable, Catherine Anne Hobson had plenty, and ultimately it propelled her and her family (via Northern Ireland) to Australia Felix.

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